The Malta Independent 15 May 2021, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Politics - The plight of our two parties

Friday, 9 April 2021, 08:59 Last update: about 2 months ago

It is sad that, for very different reasons, we have two main political parties that have been in difficulty for some time.

Starting with the Labour Party (PL), which registered two resounding victories. Never has the PL been so popular, but never has it let down the country so badly. It’s ironic that, on the one hand, the PL has a natural majority in the country, whereas on the other, every time it’s in government it comes a cropper. In the 1980s, it was overwhelmed by the uncontrollable violence of its supporters, aided and abetted by a partisan police force, together with record unemployment and constant tension in the country. In the past decade, having done well economically, it has emerged that there’s been corruption in the highest echelons of government, including an indirect, if not indeed a direct, link with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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Joseph Muscat had the country at his feet. Young, eloquent, articulate and charismatic, he brought together all factions within his party and wooed disgruntled Nationalists too. He could do no wrong, could have been a force for good and could have stayed in power for at least 20 years. Indeed, much good was done in the sphere of civil liberties and in that of economic growth. Yet his coterie was overcome by greed, and his legacy will be one of unbridled corruption at the highest levels, plus a cover-up that his government almost got away with.

The Nationalist Party (PN) has not won an election at any level ever since 2008, when it won by a whisker. In truth, the PN is only able to win when the PL renders itself unelectable.

When the Mintoff/KMB violence and anti-democratic credentials became unbearable, and when the Mintoff/Sant feuding tore the PL asunder, the PN became the fallback. And the period 1987-2013 (with a 2-year interlude in 1996-98) were, in many ways, the best years for Malta, when democracy was restored, the economy liberalised, and EU membership secured.

But the PN gradually lost out as the PL resurged. In truth, Gonzi only won in 2008 because Alfred Sant, deluded in so many ways, had become unelectable. Once he left, the PL could only grow from strength to strength. Simon Busuttil never built up enough enthusiasm to lift a deflated party, and when he tagged onto Daphne’s cause in 2013, he wasn’t believed. It’s one of life’s ironies that his glory has come after he resigned the leadership.

The Adrian Delia interregnum was a disastrous period where, at best, the PN made no headway. They were wasted years, when the Castille clique proceeded with its plundering almost unchallenged. The change in leadership came as a breath of fresh air, but in truth, electing another rookie in the person of Bernard Grech has been most disappointing. He too hasn’t risen to the occasion, indeed he hasn’t exploited the almost daily scandals emerging about the Labour government. He too is fast looking unelectable.

If truth be said, it’s only civil society that has effectively carried the banner of righteousness and of hope, but realistically with no alternative to the PL, it looks like Labour will coast to another easy victory, despite the unprecedented corruption we witnessed. Not the lofty 80,000 majority the polls were predicting before Muscat’s demise in late 2019, but probably a similar 30,000 majority it enjoyed in 2013 and 2017.

It is sad that the country lacks leaders who are true statesmen. The PL needs to find the courage to denounce the wrongs of the past 8 years, and to install a leader who truly wants to strengthen our institutions and to bring integrity back into governing. The PN needs a charismatic leader able to take the government to task on all its failures, not least the reputational damage that will scar us for years to come.

In the meantime we continue to drift in mediocrity.

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